Former Republican Governor of Utah, John Huntsman Jr was re-elected in 2008, but the following year was appointed by the Obama Administration to be Ambassador to China. Huntsman is fluent in Mandarin and Taiwanese. Many speculate that the appointment was made to, in effect, eliminate Huntsman as a potential 2012 presidential contender. News broke yesterday that Huntsman offered his resignation to the President, freeing up his 2011 and 2012 calendar.
Howard Fineman at Huffington Post has a column about Huntsman, and makes no bones that if he enters the GOP Primary race he will be a serious contender out of the gate. Newsweek has a profile on Hunstman as well, labeling him The Manchurian Candidate.
Here’s the assessment on Huntsman:
-The “Jr” is not meant as condescending. His father Jon Huntsman made a career in creating pre-formed plastic consumer items (egg crates and McDonalds cases) and his family is literally worth billions of dollars. He could self-finance a presidential run if he desired, no sweat.
-He is Mormon.
-Totes the usual conservative line (free-market good, health care for all bad), but according to Fineman is also “progressive on environmental views.”
-He can make the “I’m a Governor, I’ve managed a state” argument that most Governors do. In fact you’ll notice the likely 2012 pack of Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee are all former governors.
-Which leads to the last point. Hunstman is not any of those people mentioned above, which is good and bad. He’ll have to work to make a name of himself to those who don’t read Politico on regular basis, but he also doesn’t carry that 2008 baggage. He can be the fresh guy, the new guy. The GOP doesn’t have a firm “leader” right now because all the contenders are unpopular or not seen as serious. Huntsman could fill that void.